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May 10, 2023

The Byrds Posing in an Antique Frame, ca. 1965

“It was Dylan meets the Beatles.”

That’s Roger McGuinn’s succinct explanation of the Byrds’ bold, brainy take on rock & roll. True enough: What the Byrds pulled off with 1965’s landmark Mr. Tambourine Man was a resonant synthesis of the Beatles’ charged pro forma precision and Dylan’s mythopoeic incantations. It turned out to be a startlingly perfect fit, inspiring much that has followed, from their mentors’ subsequent Rubber Soul and Blonde On Blonde to the work of such disparate inheritors as Tom Petty, R.E.M., U2, and Crowded House.

The Byrds were an American rock band formed in Los Angeles, California, in 1964. The band underwent multiple lineup changes throughout its existence, with frontman Roger McGuinn (known as Jim McGuinn until mid-1967) remaining the sole consistent member. Although their time as one of the most popular groups in the world only lasted for a short period in the mid-1960s, the Byrds are today considered by critics to be among the most influential rock acts of their era. Their signature blend of clear harmony singing and McGuinn’s jangly 12-string Rickenbacker guitar was “absorbed into the vocabulary of rock” and has continued to be influential.

(Photos by David Magnus)


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